San Diego Mesa College has been selected to offer a baccalaureate degree in the rapidly growing field of Health Information Management thanks to a new law allowing a limited number of community colleges to develop baccalaureate programs in career technical fields. The new law, Senate Bill 805 was authored by Senator Marty Block.
Mesa College was among 15 California community colleges selected to begin offering a baccalaureate degree program as early as fall 2015. Mesa and the other selected colleges will become the first community colleges in California to grant four-year degrees under the state's historic Baccalaureate Degree Pilot Program. A final vote by the California Community Colleges Board of Governors affirming the selection will take place in March.
"One of the top missions of the California community colleges is workforce education," said San Diego Community College District Chancellor Constance M. Carroll, who chaired a statewide advocacy effort in support of the Baccalaureate Pilot Program. "We are proud that one of our colleges will be in the vanguard of this innovative movement to address the region's workforce preparation needs through high-quality instruction. I applaud the excellent work of Mesa College President Dr. Pamela T. Luster and her team on generating a winning proposal."
The Baccalaureate Degree Pilot Program was fueled in part by several studies showing that the state needs to produce 60,000 more graduates with bachelor's degrees annually by 2025 to meet workforce needs. California is joining 21 other states that allow their community colleges to offer baccalaureate degrees.
Mesa College already offers an associate degree in Health Information Technology, and the college began to plan for a four-year program midway through 2014 as Senate Bill 850, which authorized the Baccalaureate Degree Pilot Program, gained momentum in the state Legislature. Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law September 28, 2014.
The baccalaureate program will be offered through Mesa College's School of Health Sciences and Public Services. Students will take classes in the state-of-the-art Allied Health Education and Training Facility, which opened in 2009. The college has worked in collaboration with its healthcare industry partners to secure clinical placement sites to support the program requirements.
"Of the many excellent academic programs at Mesa, the two-year health information technology program stood out as the most vibrant choice for a four-year degree," said Mesa College President Pamela T. Luster. "There is a robust labor market need for medical records managers. We have tremendous student demand, superior faculty, and overwhelming support from our healthcare industry partners who stand ready to employ our graduates."
The health care field is undergoing significant change, and a federal law mandating that health care institutions convert to electronic health records has helped fuel demand for health information management employees. More than 186,000 people worked in the health information management field in 2012, and that number is expected to increase by about 22 percent – or more than 41,000 nationwide – by 2022, according to the most recent figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Salaries for a health services manager typically range from nearly $83,000 to more than $144,000 annually, according to the California Economic Development Office, with mid-level leadership salary levels in the $55,000 to $70,000 range.
The San Diego region is home to some of the leading healthcare providers in the United States, including Rady Children's Hospital, The Scripps Research Institute, and two U.S. Naval hospitals.
"Mesa College is so excited to be offering the Health Information Management program," said Margie Fritch, Dean of Mesa's School of Health Sciences and Public Service. "Students will be able to complete the two-year program and sit for their national exam in Health Information Technology and then move seamlessly into the last two years in the Health Information Management (HIM) program, and upon successful completion be eligible to sit for the national exam for Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA).
"This program will serve as an exemplary model of a career pathway with multiple entry and exit points that result in industry recognized licenses/certifications leading to employment," Fritch added. Students can begin the program by taking their first year of classes and sitting for the Medical Coding Specialist Certification. They can continue on to the second year and graduate with their Associate Degree in Health Information Technology and sit for the RHIT certification. Then can then continue on with the last two years and graduate with their Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management and then sit for the RHIA Certification.
A recent survey of Mesa College students enrolled in the Health Information Technology associate degree program showed approximately 95 percent were interested in pursuing a bachelor's degree if a baccalaureate program was offered at the Mesa College campus.
A minimum of 120 semester credits will be needed to fulfill the requirements for the four-year degree in the Health Information Management program. Students will need to complete 60 units of lower-division coursework at the community college rate of $46 a unit.The sixty additional upper division units will cost an additional $84, for a total of $130 per unit for the last two years of the program. In total, the cost of the four-year program, not including books or other costs, would be about $10,560.
This is music to the ears of Mesa College students like Steven P. Cordero-Wade: "I'm excited. Having the ability to get a four-year degree at a lower cost – it's an opportunity that's fantastic."
The only Health Information Management baccalaureate degree program currently offered in California is through Loma Linda University, a private institution that charges approximately $30,000 in tuition annually.
A new freshman cohort of 32 students in the Heath Information Technology (HIT) program will begin in fall 2015. In fall 2016, Mesa will start offering the junior-level courses in the HIM program, as well as the upper-division general education courses. Admission to the upper-division classes will be open to students who hold a two-year HIT degree and who have successfully passed the national board exam as a Registered Health Information Technician.
Admission criteria will be posted on the Mesa College website in February at www.sdmesa.edu.
Recommended Pilot Programs:
Antelope Valley College - AIRFRAME MANUFACTURING TECHNOLOGY
Bakersfield - INDUSTRIAL AUTOMATION
Crafton Hills - EMERGENCY SERVICES & ALLIED HEALTH SYSTEMS
Cypress - MORTUARY SCIENCE
Feather River - EQUINE INDUSTRY
Foothill - DENTAL HYGIENE
MiraCosta - BIOMANUFACTURING
Modesto - RESPIRATORY CARE
Rio Hondo - AUTOMOTIVE TECHNOLOGY
San Diego Mesa - HEALTH INFORMATION MANAGEMENT
Santa Ana - OCCUPATIONAL STUDIES
Santa Monica - INTERACTION DESIGN
Shasta - HEALTH INFORMATION MANAGEMENT
Skyline - RESPIRATORY THERAPY
West Los Angeles - DENTAL HYGIENE